Suspected Drunk Driver Kills Two, Injures 23 at SXSW Festival

By McCarton Ackerman 03/13/14

Rashad Charjuan Owens evaded a police checkpoint and sped down a street crowded with festival revelers.

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Scene of the crime. Photo via

A tragic hit-and-run accident involving a suspected drunk driver has killed two people and injured 23 others during the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, TX.

The driver has been identified as Rashad Charjuan Owens, whom police say evaded a sobriety checkpoint and smashed through a police barricade. While speeding away from a police car, he plowed into a crowd of people standing outside of a nightclub while still driving at high speeds, then struck a taxi and crashed into a parked van. Owens tried to flee the scene on foot, but was eventually subdued by an officer with a stun gun.

"This is an individual that showed no regard for the human beings that he plowed into in his attempt to get away," said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. “We owe it to the victims and their families to gather the evidence we need to bring them justice.” Owens will eventually face two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

Five of the 23 victims are currently listed as being in critical condition, while another five are listed as being in serious condition. Owens also had minor injuries and was treated at the same hospital as many of the victims before being taken into police custody. “It looked like something out of a movie...I’ve never seen nothing like it,” said a witness to CNN. "I felt like I was at a war or something. We was down here for the music...we were having the best time ever. And then it turned into the worst thing I've ever seen."

Despite the tragic incident, arrests during the SXSW festival have been declining in recent years. The Austin Police Department reported 126 arrests made downtown during the festival in 2013, a 40 percent drop from the 224 downtown arrests during the 2012 festival.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.